Leatherback Sea Turtle
Turtles are currently critically endangered. In 1982 there were 115,000 adult female leatherbacks and currently there are around 20,000. The number of leatherbacks in the Atlantic are increasing, but in the Pacific the population is plummeting due to egg harvesting, coastal developement, and food variability.
Leatherbacks are able to swim in cold water because they can retain and generate body heat. They do this by changing their blood flow and their layer of body fat. Also the shell has ridges which help make the Leatherback more hydrodynamic structure to help it swim through the water easier. Finally the front legs are well developed fins.
Where do they live?
Leatherback live in many places throughout the world. They are mainly found in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Oceans, and alos the Mediterrean Sea. They swim as far north as Canada and Norway and as far south as South America and New Zealand. Now Leatherbacks are dying sooner due to human activities. In some Pacific populations, such as Malaysia, leatherback populations have disappeared entirely.
Threats to Leatherbacks
Eggs are taken by humans from nests to be eaten for subsistence or as aphrodisiacs. Also many leatherbacks fall victim to fishing lines and nets, or are hit by boats. Leatherbacks can hold their breath for a long time, but when are stressed their ability to hold their breath decreases. That is how many die in fishing lines. Humans are to blame for the endangerment of this species. In Malaysia, egg harvesting has removed almost 95% of all eggs.
Leatherback Conservation Areas in the north Pacific are off-limits to long-line fisheries during certain times of the year. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has made laws forbidng the international trade of Leatherbacks and their products. the National Marine Fisheries Service has made regulations requiring shrimp trawlers on the southeastern and Gulf coasts to have a turtle excluder device (TED) on their nets. This allows turtles to escape if they enter the net. Most beaches have laws about egg harvesting but is poorly enforced and it still occurs prominately in Mexico and some South American countries.
Grand Anse, Grenada--Leatherback Sea Turtle Nesting 2012
The leatherback is keeping certain fish popualtions from extinguising. Since the leatherback eats almost its weight in jellyfish everyday it keeps the jellyfish population from rising too much. The jellyfish eat the fish so if there are less jellyfish less fish will be eaten. In some Carribean Islands, people can pay to watch Leatherback's nest at night which can help the ecnomy in these small towns and promote convservation.
What can you do?
There are many different organizations that you can donate to that would love you help. Also STOP using plastic bags because Leatherbacks can confuse them for jellyfish and choke on them. Finally dont eat swordfish and tuna because they get caught on longlines which can also kill Leatherbacks.